“As Ammar pedaled away from the starting line, we, in the team car had our respective roles to play.
Miten Sir was driving, Divya navigated while Vilas and I were assigned to take care of Ammar’s food and supplements. It did take a while to get adjusted to the navigation system and the mobile application on our handheld devices. We even took a few wrong turns but were quick enough to realise it and join the route again. The first few hours we did a leapfrog and direct follow alternately. The first section (345 kms) had a total 4,690m of elevation gain and many continuous climbs.
As the moon made its way up, we were required to directly follow Ammar. Once the sun set completely, the temperature started to drop and as expected, it began pouring heavily. As a rider, Ammar has always enjoyed cycling in the rains, but as compared to the monsoon back home, the temperature here falls quickly by 4-5 degree centigrade. These conditions not only served as a challenge for Ammar, but also for the crew. Shuffling from the cozy car seat to the harsh weather outside to provide Ammar with food and his supplements was quite a task.
The next day, just after dawn, Ammar had a power nap and that left him refreshed to continue with the ride. As planned, we swapped our duties. Divya took over driving, I helped with navigation, Miten took care of Ammar’s diet and riding while Vilas relaxed. Soon, we needed to replenish our food supplies and so we made a mandatory stop at a departmental store. Here we refuelled our supplies as well as Ammar’s hunger pangs and continued with the journey.
Throughout the route, there were a total of 40-time stations where we had to note down the timings ourselves (unlike in RAAM, the officials have to be informed on reaching every TS). Until 3:10pm (24hrs since the start) Ammar had covered a distance of 361kms along and almost 4691 m of climbing. The weather was now bright and sunny. Cruising at a good speed, we reached a village called Drosendorf (some German words are a real tongue twister!) where we met a few race officials. They were happy to welcome us, and since it was already evening, we decided to refuel Ammar with a nice hot meal and some sleep.
After reaching a village, Ammar recharged himself and had his first long sleep of 45mins. However, this break lasted for about 90mins. In spite of being in our target zone, we still needed a better buffer time. As we left the village, the crew re-shuffled duties and Divya decided to sleep, while Miten took over driving and I navigated.
At sunset, the temperature dropped again, this time around 5 degrees centigrade.
As a part of Ammar’s diet plan, he was on supplements like heed and perpeteum. The overall combination of supplements and dry food was slowly leading Ammar to an upset stomach. To keep his digestion in place, we got in touch with our dietician Meghna Surve who instructed us about the feeds. Following which, we avoided certain supplements and food items.
The next morning, Ammar had recovered well and our sleep too had vanished. Divya took over the driving while Miten Sir and I rested.
At 566km there was a major roadblock and we were required to take an alternative route. But due to the lack of interpretation of the German language and signs, we ended up spending more time here than anticipated.f
Getting back to the original route, was a huge relief. At this point, by 8:10am, Ammar had cycled 600kms with over 6000m of climbing. We were now approaching river Danube at TS13 called Donabrucke. We decided to have a quick change of clothes for Ammar and a power nap while we could freshen up as well. After stocking up on our food supplies, we continued our journey towards the next town, Altenburg.”
THE MOMENT OF IMPACT:
“By now Ammar had now crossed 650kms. While things seemed pretty fine, we got a call from Micheal (the race director). He informed us that as we were too late to make the cut off at 860kms and he didn’t have the required road permission to allow us to officially race past this point after 48hrs, we would have to stop racing.
Unaware of the happenings around him, Ammar was still fighting his way to the finish line. The crew thought it would be best to pull ourselves till the cut-off point at 860kms. Right or wrong, it was important not to stop and to keep him racing.
In the evening, we approached a 12km climb. At the bottom of the climb, 51 hrs and 750 Km later, the moment of truth had arrived. Though just looking at the numbers it appeared like we had completed half the distance in just over half the time, this race is far tougher in the second half. The tension was evident on our faces and didn’t go unnoticed by Ammar.
Finally, we broke the news to Ammar. Many questions followed, to which no one really had an answer. Accepting the facts was important and helped us come to terms with it. Being the kind of person we know him to be, Ammar was already talking about coming back for RAA next year and nailing it.
Going downhill into the next nearby village, we decided to stop. As it was already past 8 pm (closing time for all hotels and shops) we had to arrange for our stay for the night. Making an online booking, we decided to cross the Austrian border and enter a small town called Torony in Hungary (barely 10 km away).
The night was long with emotions running high and many questions left unanswered.” difficult to go through.
THE FINAL DISH:
“When I had first seen the RAA logo, the tagline read “We Create Emotions”. How weird was that for a renowned ultra-endurance cycling race. It always made me think about the reason behind it, until as a crew member, as a cyclist and as a friend, I experienced during the race. RAA was so much more than a race for us. In just a few days, it had opened our thoughts and our vision to new things unleashed an array of emotions and gave us some priceless memories to cherish for a lifetime.”
Picture Courtesy: Devika Patil
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